What to Know About Pa.’s ‘Steer Clear’ Law and How It Can Save Lives
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on February 21st, 2018
In Pennsylvania, there’s a law on the books – the “steer clear” law – which says drivers must move over or slow down as they approach an emergency scene, a roadside vehicle stop by police or a disabled vehicle being aided by a tow truck or other emergency vehicle.
The problem is that few drivers know about the steer clear law and that law enforcement officers rarely ticket violators because they aren’t there to see violations or they are busy with more pressing needs at crash scenes.
Yet this little-known law has huge implications for emergency workers, who are often put in danger as cars and trucks speed by on highways and local roads, within feet or precious inches of police officers and tow truck operators trying to do their work on the side of the road.
The importance of the law was tragically illustrated on Sept. 10, 2017 when two men – a tow truck driver and a motorist whose car had broken down on the side of Route 222 North in Clay Township, Lancaster County – were killed when a car driven by a drunken driver barreled into them on the side of the highway about 1:50 a.m., according to a Feb. 20 story by the LNP newspaper. Instead of moving over to the passing lane on the four-lane highway when he spotted flashing emergency lights on the tow trick, the driver of the car stayed in the right lane of the road and struck the motorist and tow truck operator.
Alcohol certainly had a role in that fatal crash, but it could just as easily have involved a sober driver who didn’t know to slow down and move over to an adjacent lane if possible, to give way to the emergency vehicle, according to the steer clear law.
Pennsylvania’s steer clear law, which is described in Section 3327 of the commonwealth’s vehicle code, says it is the duty of a driver to slow down to a more prudent speed and to move over to an adjacent lane when emergency vehicles are present, from police vehicles to towing trucks and related first responders. If an adjacent lane is not present, drivers have the responsibility to “pass the emergency response area at a careful and prudent reduced speed reasonable for safely passing the emergency response area,” according to the law.
Drivers who are found guilty of violating the steer clear law are subject to a license suspension of 90 days if the violation resulted in the death, serious injury or serious disfigurement of another person, the law states. Fines for violating the steer clear law can be assessed at up to $250 for a first violation. Fines can rise to as much as $10,000 if the incident involves an injury or death.
The well-meaning law is difficult to enforce, so police in Lancaster County say they are trying to make more drivers aware of the rules to protect the lives of emergency workers.
“(The crash) certainly highlighted the reason [for] the law and the reason it was put into effect,” Chief Brian Brandt of the West Earl Township Police, told LNP.
Fritzi Schreffler, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, told LNP that the “steer clear law was designed to give people the space to do their job. We’re asking motorists to take a little responsibility.”
So, the next time you are driving along a road or highway and see a tow truck helping a motorist or a police officer or other official responding to an emergency, be sure to slow down and move over to give them “working room” to do their jobs. Preventing another tragedy like the one that occurred in Lancaster County last September is the idea of the steer clear law.
Let’s be more careful out there. The next victim of such a tragedy could be someone you know or love. Drive safely and stay aware of changing conditions all around you so that everyone can get home to their loved ones.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a family member is ever seriously injured in any kind of vehicle incident anywhere in the United States. We pledge to make sure that you and your family get the compassionate, dogged and experienced legal representation that you deserve and expect from a professional legal team which works hard to uncover every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.
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